All over social media I have been seeing many posts about people saying how horrendous 2016 was for them. Many people lost loved ones, had traumatic experiences and went through life changing events. It seems like this year was full of negativity, and it makes me wonder has every year been like this? I can’t honestly recall. This year, the celebrities we lost included Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, George Michael, High O’Brian, Fidel Castro, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Alan Rickman, Arnold Palmer, Ron Glass, Bernard Fox & Debbie Reynolds. Of course these celebrities are just one life in a world of billions, but their prominence in the media or their field of speciality resulted in a world of broken hearts and impacted people. Not so publicised, friends and family of mine lost sisters, grandparents, parents and pets. Death seemed very prominent this year, alongside freak accidents, illness diagnosis’ and natural disasters. It was like 2016 was testing all of us in the cruelest and most permanent way possible, by taking from us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own year in 2016, and it has become quite hard to digest. As I mentioned in my previous blog post I have been seeking help and am so happy to say my anxiety, eating and overall headspace has improved. I still have the odd panic attack here and there, but I can manage them better now, and am surrounded by a great support system who know once I start to convulse, to grab me and tell me to breathe. As silly as that sounds to tell someone to “breathe”, not everyone knows how to respond when someone has an anxiety attack or has an unprovoked panic attack. I’ve been working on my thoughts, one of the hardest things has been accepting what happened this year. It’s been a really difficult thing to wrap my head around. Sometimes very late at night, in the shower, or basically any time I’m alone with my thoughts the strangest thing happens. I can’t explain it but it’s like I’m suddenly back in the room with Prof. Smee alongside my nurse and my Mum when he’s telling me the news that the cancer’s back and it’s more unpredictable and aggressive than ever. I start to feel the emotions I felt that day again and a wave of panic comes over me. I see his face, the scans and the tears of my Mum and my nurse. I remember the confusion when I asked him how long I had left and he said “months.” No matter where I’m standing, whether it’s in the shower, in my room or even a public place, I can’t control the shakes that overtake my body and I begin to sweat, convulse and cry. I’m not embarrassed to admit this, as I’m working on it, and with the help of my counsellor I know I will overcome this. The attacks have been happening much less frequently, it’s just hard to not feel like a failure when I’ve had a couple of days where no anxiety attacks happen and then one comes on out of the blue. I’ve learnt that healing and recovery is not linear, and there is no set time it takes one person to move on from their trauma.
I was diagnosed in April with Mucoepidermoid carcinoma, I had the biggest surgery of my life to date, 6 weeks of radiation therapy, juggled work and Uni throughout, to find out only weeks later that it had all been for nothing and the cancer was back. They told me it was a big surgery or death and when I said no they told me to prepare to die. Now after hearing all that, you’re going to think I am out of my mind when I say 2016 was a gift – let me explain why in just 4 reasons.
- I learnt what it meant to say goodbye to everything and everyone
In those months after being deemed terminal my eyes were opened and I considered the world around me and what it meant to lose that. Little things I took for granted became enormous things that I was terrified to lose. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I’d be losing my family, my friends, my home, my dog, my interests and most of all my life. Each day I had woken up and not considered what a gift it was to be here until they told me my days of waking up each morning were limited. I learnt how to grasp each moment, how to dance in the rain, how to feel the sun on my skin and thank God for the beautiful day rain, hail or shine. I bought some good books and sat in the sun, watching the butterflies and the birds play in the sky. I felt like I had left the world that was full of stress and negativity where people are constantly rushing and wanting things they don’t have and entered my own little world of paradise where EVERYTHING was beautiful, magical and special.
2. I learnt that money and possessions are nothing in the grand scheme of things
How many times have we sacrificed a good time because we wanted to ‘save money’? How many times have we saved and saved and saved for a material possession for it to fade from our interests only weeks later because something bigger and better came out? How many times have we missed out on things, told our friends/family to go without because we ‘couldn’t afford it?’ How many times have we sat at home and moped about being poor/broke? We’re all guilty of it; I am SO guilty of it and this is one thing I learnt about myself whilst going through this experience. Money in the bank and possessions are nothing to a dead woman. Experiences, love, memories and good times – those are what make a rich life, not money or possessions. When I was re-evaluating my life, all 20 years of it, I didn’t think of the shoes, the handbags or the jewellery I’d bought. I considered the experiences I’d had, the fun times I’d shared and people I had spent this time with. I decided I’d had many happy days, but I’d not had enough. There were countries I was yet to see, activities I was yet to do, achievements I was yet to conquer. This was one of the hardest things to consider, the experiences I was leaving empty and the people I was leaving behind. One of the hardest things was feeling the guilt of leaving everyone, knowing the pain it would cause them, and not have the ability to do anything about it. I wished I could give everyone 50 more years of my life, but I felt I couldn’t even give myself that. I really learnt to let go of material possessions and most of all stopped caring about money. This is a value I hope to always hold onto. It can be difficult in a world that is centred around income, but those who are truly rich in my eyes are the healthy and the loved.
3. I opened my mind to alternatives and have delved into a new world
OMG – to tell you guys the amount of research I have done around all things cancer-causing, cancer-fighting and cancer-preventing would be impossible. I’ve read countless articles on what causes cancer and have therefore completely changed my life style. I didn’t realise how many bad habits I had that could be doing harm to my body and making it more acidic (which is cancer’s favourite playground.) I was eating so much meat, dairy, drinking alcohol and letting stress overtake my body to the point where it would make me ill. I wasn’t alkalining my body, drinking enough water or getting enough sleep. The list goes on and on. I should make a point to say I don’t think I caused my cancer by having bad habits. The Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma was brought on by radiation therapy, but perhaps if I had a more alkaline body the cancer cells wouldn’t have been able to become a metastatic tumour. I’m currently still vegetarian (for the most part, I occasionally – very very very RARELY eat meat), I avoid dairy, RARELY if ever have coffee and make sure to drink high PH water. I’m not even close to knowing half of the information out there but I LOVE learning about it. I hope that by continuing this lifestyle I will remain cancer free and give my body the best chance to recover. I feel much richer in knowledge from this experience, almost as if I have delved into a new world who’s doors were previously closed to me. The information is all out there, it is only up to you to throw yourself in the deep end, do some research and make some changes if necessary.
4. Death was defeated by LOVE
And from this I am absolutely so filled with an ample amount of LOVE. I can’t express the joy to you I feel waking up each day and celebrating life. Every day is a celebration to me. Even the days I’m merely sitting at home, watching TV or doing a mundane task I am absolutely so in love with the day and my life. This has been the greatest gift of all. Next time you are in total euphoria, ponder something negative…It has no effect, am I right? Because when you are so full of joy and love and happiness, EVERYTHING is amazing. I have fallen in love with life over and over again and I continue to. I savour each moment and I will continue to thanks to this year.
So you might think I’m crazy, that I LOVED the year that tore me apart, that broke me into a million pieces, that kicked me while I was down, but I don’t. People have been saying “2016 thank you for the lessons, 2017 I am ready for the blessings” and that is great that people are moving on from their trauma and struggles and embracing a year of positivity and abundance. But the way I see it, this year was a GIFT. The ‘lessons’ I learnt doubled as ‘blessings.’ For a long while I wanted to be someone else, someone healthy, someone who cancer had never touched. I envied the healthy and felt immense jealousy toward anyone who was out living their life while I was crying my eyes out in bed and in hospital. But now I realise I have been blessed to have had it all taken away, to have suffered, to have pondered death and to have had my heart broken because it taught me to love every single aspect of my life, and for that I love my struggle.
So thank you 2016. You were a gift of lessons, wrapped with a bow of blessings, because I not only finished this year, but I smashed it. I am ready for whatever life has in store for me, because I now believe we are only given the challenges we can handle.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday period celebrating Christmas and New Years with their families and friends. I wish nothing but abundance, success and good health for everyone in 2017. May we all reach our full potential and live life to the max this year!